COOPERSTOWN – Joining Republican Mary Margaret Robbins Sohns, the three Democratic incumbents for Village Board filed for independent lines on the March 18 ballot by the 5 p.m. deadline Tuesday evening.
In addition to having her name on the Democratic ballot line, Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh Kuch will appear on the “Village United” line. Trustee Joe Membrino’s line is “Liberty Party,” and Trustee MacGuire Benton’s, “Many Voices, One Village.”
COOPERSTOWN – By acclamation, the Democrats caucused a few minutes ago and nominated the three incumbents – Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh Kuch and Trustees Joe Membrino and MacGuire Benton — to run for reelection in the March 18 village elections.
“It’s not a given that productive government continues,” former mayor Jeff Katz said in nominating his successor for her second term. Patty MacLeish seconded the nomination.
Lynn Mebust chaired the caucus, with Ann Brown as secretary.
COOPERSTOWN – Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh says she’s running for a second term in next March’s village election, adding that first-term Trustee MacGuire Benton is likely to as well.
And Joe Membrino, also in his first term, said he’s planning to run again, too.
But for the first time since the GOP debacle in 2011, the Republican Party may be running a slate as well, which would be the first challenge for Democrats who have control all trustee seats for almost a decade.
“Prior to the November election, we put the wheels I motion to start looking for candidates,” Republican County Chairman Vince Casale, who lives in Cooperstown, said Tuesday Nov. 12. “We’ve seen quite a bit of interest already.”
In the few years prior to 2011, Village Board election were highly contested, with Republicans and Democrats fielding full slates.
That year, however, Republican Mayor Joe Booan revealed in February he had opened conversations with county Sheriff Richard J. Devlin, Jr., about turning over in-village policing to Devlin’s deputies.
The reaction brought Democrats Ellen Tillapaugh and Walter Franck onto the board, and reelected incumbent trustee Jeff Katz.
Booan spent a year struggling with a new Democratic majority, then retired in 2012, when Katz was elevated to mayor.
Except for Trustee Lou Allstadt, who sought both Republican and Democratic nominations when he ran in 2013, the Village Board has remained in Democratic hands ever since.
Because of neighbors’ rancor in recent months – over a proposed apartment house backing up to Pine Boulevard, flying the Pride Flag on the community flagpole, the installation of blinking traffic signs, a proposed Dunkin’ Donuts/Baskins Robbins outlet and, most recently, provisions for dormitories in a revised zoning code – Republicans may see an opportunity.
In an interview, Mayor Tillapaugh said she’s running to see a range of downtown and infrastructure improvements come to fruition, ranging from the $5 million in Doubleday Field renovations to upgrades to the water-treatment plant.
A redo of Pioneer Park, which the mayor championed, is “going to look fabulous,” she said.
While there has been some citizen unrest, Tillapaugh said the Village Board has sought to be accommodating. For instance, the dormitory provision was removed after the public objected at an Oct. 28 public hearing, she said.
“We had a public hearing,” she said, “and the purpose of the public hearing was to listen to the public. It doesn’t mean you are always going to change things totally to make a group of people happy.”
However, she said, the trustees did adjust the proposed code in this case, and scheduled another public hearing for 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 25, their next regular meeting.
“I didn’t close the public hearing until everyone had a chance to speak,” she added. The discussion went on for 45 minutes.
Asked if the other incumbents plan to run again, she said, “I assume Mac is,” a reference to Benton. “And hopefully, Joe too.”
For his part, Benton said, “I’m not prepared to make an announcement at this time.” Membrino, who was out of town, called to say he does intend to run, and would be interested in being interviewed further on his return.
Membrino was appointed to serve out Tillapaugh’s trustee term when she was elected mayor in March 2018, when Benton ran unopposed to serve the rest of Allstadt’s term after that trustee resigned.
While town elections are administered by the county Board of Elections, village elections are overseen by Village Administrator Teri Barown.
Each party must hold caucuses to nominate candidates between Jan. 21 and Jan. 28.
Independents may also run for mayor or trustee, and must submit petitions with a minimum of 50 signatures between Feb. 4 and Feb. 11.
Editor’s Note: Here is the text of the flag policy approved by the Cooperstown village trustees on Aug. 26, when the decision to fly the Pride Flag from the flagpole at Main and Pioneer was also affirmed. Village Attorney Martin Tillapaugh advised the trustees can approve flying any flag they wish; but if they then reject a request to say, fly the Stars & Bars, that decision would not be defensible in New York State courts.
►Section 1: The Village of Cooperstown hereby finds, determines and declares as follows:
A. On July 22, 2019, the Board of Trustees of the Village of Cooperstown directed that the Pride, or Rainbow, Flag be displayed on the flagpole at Pioneer and Main Streets annually throughout the month of June to commemorate LGBTQ+ Pride Month.
B. It is desirable that a flag policy regarding the display of commemorative flags be incorporated with a general policy regarding the ongoing display of federal and state flags, as well as the POW-MIA Flag, at Village facilities, including provisions for displaying flags at half-staff.
C. The Village’s flagpoles are not intended to serve as a forum for free expression by the public, but rather for the display of federal and state flags, the POW-MIA flag, and any commemorative flag as may be authorized by the Board of Trustees as an expression of the Village’s official sentiments.
►Section 2: Purpose.
This policy provides procedural guidance for (1) the display of the Flag of the United States and the State of New York flag; (2) the display of the POW-MIA flag; and (3) the display of commemorative flags at Village facilities. ►Section 3: Responsibility for Policy.
The Village Administrator or his or her designee shall be responsible for ensuring the proper execution of this policy at all Village facilities. ►Section 4: Procedures.
Flags are to be displayed in conformance with Federal and State statutes, including Title 4 Chapter 1 of the United States Code. Additionally, the standards below shall be followed regarding the display of flags. ►Section 5: POW-MIA Flag.
(a) The POW-MIA Flag is a nationally recognized flag, created in 1971 and recognized by an act of Congress through the adoption of U.S. Public Law 101-355, to represent concern of individuals who are identified as prisoners of war or missing in action. The POW-MIA Flag has become a symbol of commitment to achieving the fullest possible accounting for those in the future who may become prisoners of war, missing in action, or otherwise unaccounted for as a result of hostile action.
(b) The POW-MIA flag shall be displayed on the flagpole at Main and Pioneer Streets during the month of November. ►Section 6: Commemorative Flags.
(a) Commemorative flags may be displayed as an expression of the Village’s official sentiments. Consistent with the Village’s vision, mission and guiding principles, it is expected that
these flags incorporate themes
of diversity, equity, social justice and inclusion.
(b) The Village’s flagpoles are not intended to serve as a forum for free expression by the public. The Village will not display a commemorative flag based on a request from a third party, nor will the Village
use its flagpoles to sponsor the expression of a third party.
(c) Commemorative flags shall be displayed only by adoption of a resolution of the Board of Trustees.
(d) Commemorative flags shall not show religious preference or encourage a specific vote in a particular election.
(e) Commemorative flags shall be displayed for a period of time that is reasonable or customary for the subject that is to be commemorated, but no longer than 45 continuous days.
(f) Commemorative flags may be displayed on the flagpole at Main and Pioneer Streets and/or at other Village facilities as designated by the Board of Trustees.
(g) A commemorative flag may be donated by a third party after adoption of a resolution by the Board of Trustees for its display. ►Section 7: Flying Flags at Half-Staff.
(a) The Flag of the United States shall be flown at half-staff in response to Presidential orders or proclamations, and instructions from the New York State Governor.
(b) When the Flag of the United States is flown at half-staff, other flags hung on the same flagpole may be relocated or removed from Village facilities in order to ensure public safety and to conform with Federal and State statues.
COOPERSTOWN – A month after voting unanimously to fly the Pride Flag on the flagpole next June, village trustees once again debated and, in the end, affirmed their decision.
“I gave every member of this board every opportunity to table this motion,” said Trustee MacGuire Benton, who introduced the resolution at the board’s July meeting. “For any vote you can have a discussion. We don’t need a unique, complex way to vote on flags.”
The debates started when the board’s “Adhoc Committee on Vexillology,” chaired by Benton, introduced a policy intended to give the Board guidance and clarity when taking up future proposals to fly flags. But the committee’s resolution on “the Display of Flags at Village Facilities” had the opposite effect.
Editor’s Note: This was reprinted from the current edition of The Freeman’s Journal and Hometown Oneonta, available at local newsstands.
By JIM KEVLIN • Special to AllOTSEGO.com
COOPERSTOWN – As suggestions expand to hanging banners beyond the Pride Flag on the village’s flagpole, Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh Kuch is asking Trustee MacGuire Benton to form a committee with two other trustees to develop a policy for all such requests.
“We need a policy, that’s exactly right,” said the mayor, after Benton, in response to last week’s article, said his intent – and, he believes, the Village Board’s vote at its July 22 meeting – specified the Pride Flag would hang next June on the Main and Pioneer flagpole, not on Village Hall.
COOPERSTOWN – Following up on last night’s PTA meeting, CCS Superintendent Bill Crankshaw plans to put together a document with information on the school district’s current programs and policies and future ones “to combat harassment, bullying and discrimination.”
“Because of conversations with students, clergy, and parents on areas that they would like to see addressed,” he said. “I can assure you that moving forward, the timeline for reflecting on and doing the work is immediately.”
Sean Miller, top photo, right, looks admiringly at MacGuire Benton after nominating him for a one-year term on the Cooperstown Village Board at the Democratic Caucus this evening in the top-floor ballroom at Village Hall. Two incumbents, inset, Jeanne Dewey and Richard Sternberg, were nominated for the two three-year terms that are open in the March elections. The village Republicans failed to caucus this year, so the three are assured reelection, absent a write-in candidacy. Newcomer Benton is a graduate of Cooperstown Central School and has studied at Cazenovia and SUNY Oneonta. Most recently, he has been a staffer for such candidates as Brian Flynn, who ran for the Democratic nomination for Congress in the 19th District. His parents are Mark and Marianne Benton of Cooperstown. (Jim Kevlin/AllOTSEGO.com)
COOPERSTOWN – MacGuire Benton, founder of the Otsego County Young Democrats, was elected to join County Representative Andrew Stammel as co-vice chairs of the Otsego County Democratic Committee meeting during their reorganization meeting this evening at Village Hall in Cooperstown.
COOPERSTOWN – Bobby Walker, a CCS senior and leader of the Otsego County Young Republicans, said he was called into the principal’s office and told to “remove” e-petitions he was circulating on behalf of Laurie Pestar, the elementary school secretary who was seeking an unpaid leave while she fights cancer.
Walker refused to do so, and asked Middle/High School Principal Donna Lucy who had told her to rein him in. “I cannot tell you,” she replied.
“We do have a voice and we will not allow ourselves to be bullied into submission,” the senior told the school board that was meeting this evening in the packed middle/high school library. (It appeared most attendees were there for their Participation in Government class.)